Julia Barfield: Why I’m backing Duncan Baker-Brown for RIBA president

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Julia Barfield argues that Duncan Baker-Brown is best placed to provide the leadership needed to shift from sustainable design to circular and regenerative models of practice

As we approach the election of the next president of the RIBA, we now live in a world where extreme weather events are becoming the norm, global temperature rises have broken the 1.5°C mark and in 2023 we breached six of the nine planetary boundaries we rely on for life on Earth.

The survival of a liveable planet is clearly the most important issue of our time.

Why is this particularly relevant to architects? Because according to John Schellnhuber of Bauhaus Earth, “The built environment is the elephant in the climate room”.

The cold facts are that currently the built environment is responsible for 42% of the UK’s carbon emissions, a staggering 62% of the UK’s waste and 50% of extracted material use, plus there has been 50% biodiversity loss in the last 50 years.

Given the huge negative impact of our sector, surely we have a responsibility to act to turn this around. We need a fundamental shift, at speed, beyond sustainable design, which has clearly not got us where we need to be, towards circular and regenerative models, while also promoting a just and equitable profession.

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